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Abaxis slips from highs as analyst cuts rating

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of the blood analysis systems developer Abaxis, which had been hitting all-time highs in recent weeks, slid more than 4 percent Friday as Stifel Nicolaus downgraded the stock.

THE SPARK: Analyst Jonathan Block lowered his rating to "Hold" from "Buy." Abaxis shares recently surpassed his price target of $46. He removed that target Thursday. Block said the share price now reflects the company's improving growth prospects as distribution of its products widens.

THE BIG PICTURE: The Union City, Calif., company makes portable blood analysis systems for use on humans and animals. Abaxis' Piccolo Xpress system can run tests for infections, inflammatory diseases, tissue injuries or abnormal cell growth in about 12 minutes. The company also provides diagnostic and consulting services for veterinarians.

Over the last four quarters its revenue has grown 18 percent to $178.8 million.

SHARE ACTION: Abaxis Inc. fell $2.16, or 4.5 percent, to $46.11 in afternoon trading. The shares are up 30 percent in 2013 and closed at $48.27 on Thursday. On Tuesday the stock reached an all-time high of $49.45.